My oldest son, Tyler, has recently become obsessed with everything Star Wars. It started with the action figures which moved into wanting to watch the movies which moved into wanting to play Star Wars games. We have a Nintendo Game Cube, and trying to stay the “cool” dad that I am, I went to our local Game Stop and bought him a copy of Star Wars Legos. I will have to admit that this is a pretty fun game. It allows us to play together on the same team and play our way through the Star Wars story. Tyler absolutely loves it, and I did too- at least for the first 20 hrs. or so. Now, it is all he wants to do. Unfortunately, it has gotten pretty old to me, and it’s not a whole lot of fun anymore. We aren’t terrible parents, so we do make him play other things, but every day when I get home from work I get the same question, “Daddy, do you want to play Star Wars Legos with me?”
Honestly, I rarely want to. But almost every afternoon, I find myself sitting on our couch for 30 minutes to an hour fighting for control of the universe. But, why? Why do I continue to do something I don’t particularly enjoy? It is because of a certain belief that I and many dads around the world hold. We believe that spending time with our children doing things they enjoy will result in a relationship with them that will pay huge dividends in the future. And so playing Start Wars Legos with Tyler is a result of my believing something specific about how I can have influence in his life in the future.
This is the same principle in play with our ministry practices. Every thing we do (whether we realize it or not) comes out of our theology. For instance, we do Community Groups at Athens Church because of a very specific theology we have about how a person grows in their faith. We have designed our church with outsiders in mind because of a theology we hold about the church’s call to impact culture. Every thing we do is determined by what we believe.
As I put in the previous post, the altar call was birthed out of a very specific theology. I’m afraid that many people are still practicing the altar call out of tradition instead of thinking about the theological implications behind it. If we feel the need to pressure and manipulate people into making a decision, we are practicing a theology that says that salvation is primarily a human activity. I do not believe that. I believe that salvation is the work of God and apart from him, it cannot occur. Therefore, I feel no need to pressure anyone into it. I want to allow the Holy Spirit to work in their heart and produce a saving faith in them. There is an element of human participation in it, but pressure or manipulation will not produce saving faith.
So the question becomes, if salvation is primarily God’s work in someone, what would be an appropriate practice as it relates to an opportunity to respond in a worship service? To be honest, right now, I am only sure what is not appropriate. Any high pressure or manipulation is not acceptable to me- my theology doesn’t allow it. So we need to continue the conversation and try to figure out the best way to allow people to respond to God in a public worship service. I think there has to be a great way to provide this opportunity to people without the negative aspects I have mentioned.